StageScan Pick: Late Company

Late Company at Trafalgar Studios has scored a combined 4.1 average pro stars across its two short runs this summer, with all awarding at least four. Claire Allfree (Telegraph) described a “tightly coiled evening” that “thrives on the proximity between actors and audience” in both the Finborough and Trafalgar 2. Neil Norman (Express) explained its dinner-party hosts’ “intimate and tragic connection” with the strangers they’re expecting: “A year earlier their gay son committed suicide after being bullied at school by the son of their guests”. Henry Hitchings (ES) saw playwright Jordan Tannahill’s core subject “entangled with questions of intolerance, depression, parental responsibility and our sometimes toxic ideas about what’s funny”.

Norman admired how the playwright “lets the story unravel through the interaction of the characters”. Allfree enjoyed the “clever… way it exposes the carapace of modern social rituals” as “polite chatter” and “overtures towards reconciliation” give way to “the feelings beneath… animal like: huge, furious and mad with pain”. Hitchings saw “increasingly raw emotion… punctuated with toe-curling and often ludicrous scenes of social awkwardness and point-scoring”. Libby Purves (TheatreCat) described “small explosions and rumbles of danger” and admired how “the degrees of delusion in the two women in particular are treated by the young author with a clear and hard, though not wholly pitiless, eye”. Norman expressed “wonder” that it is “so brilliantly balanced between accusatory anger and humane understanding”, adding: “He nails the cultural differences… without making cheap jibes about their differing political views”. Allfree described a “fast-moving, 75-minute nightmare” with “a touch of ancient Greek drama in the way it interrogates ideas of justice, forgiveness and revenge” and hailed writing which “fizzes with authenticity”, finding Tannahill’s “arrow sharp dialogue… by turns comic and excruciating”.

Hitchings thought Michael Yale’s production “nicely observed, peeling back its characters’ layers of delusion and pretentiousness” and Purves found it’s “intimacy and force… riveting”. Allfree hailed “a quintet of impeccable performances”. Purves detected “a real sense of danger” in Lucy Robinson’s “brittle and over-poised” hostess Debora and Allfree felt Lisa Stevenson’s “twittering Tamara, beautifully betrays the nervousness of a woman socially out of her depth”. Hitchings found in the two “a perfect contrast”.

Norman thought it “beautifully performed by all, especially David Leopold” and Hitchings agreed his “apparently ordinary” character, Curtis was the “most intriguing” admiring newcomer Leopold’s “restrained performance”. Allfree found him “fabulously sullen” and Purves declared “I can’t speak too highly” of his ability to “carry a part which moves him from surly embarrassed irritability to… devastatingly open”.

Purves hailed a “neat 75 minutes, bang-on topical and sharply written”. Hitchings thought it “picks a nimble course through some prickly subjects”. Norman admired “a model of controlled information as revelations… leak steadily into the room like dripping blood”. Allfree thought it “unapologetically conventional” yet “in the way it picks apart our misguided hunger for easy resolutions… utterly transfixing” and summed up a “pocket-sized, sucker punch”, admitting “It’s been a while since I left a show feeling so winded”.

Runs to 16 Sep 2017, with some tickets still available from StageScan. And for more dinner-party recriminations, why not catch Apologia at Trafalgar 1. We still have seats from £43!

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